September always marks a season of anticipation and renewal. It is, admittedly, a bit of a strange connection to make what with it also being a season that’s generally marked by the transition from the season of abundance and sun that is summer, into the season of barrenness and cold that is winter. Renewal won’t be seen until spring, so why this feeling?
I guess the first is that despite now being over 10 years removed from my last college class, I still relate September with the start of a new school year. New challenges, new topics of study, and for a bookworm, new books.
But it also meant a break from the monotony of summers spent cooped up in my family home. Being a latchkey kid in a working class family meant that we could not really ever afford loads of trips or the odd camp for the summer. My brother and sister would make the best of what we had, cycling responsibilities on choosing what well-worn VHS tapes to watch during the mid-day fallow period for children’s programming (my personal go-to’s were Aladdin, The Lion King, Hook, and a recorded PBS airing of West Side Story).
So, even if it meant homework, I always looked forward to the start of a new school year and a way to spend my days that didn’t always mean trying to find new ways to make the familiar corners of my family’s apartment out to be exotic locals full of adventure. I looked forward to something new, something fresh, amidst the familiar confines of school.
Liverpool Football Club marked their return to Premier League action with a comprehensive and composed victory over their first Top 6 opponent, Tottenham Hotspur. It wasn’t, perhaps, the most pretty of victories, as it is clear that our front three are still a step or two off from each other. In fact, watching Mohamed Salah shrug off an open and better-positioned Daniel Sturridge in the closing moments of the match - and just ahead of what would be Tottenham’s opener - left a minor streak what ought to have been a nearly flawless victory.
Yet, here we are on the other side of that match with Liverpool still owners of a perfect record in the Premier League, sat joint first atop the table, and looking every bit the special club they appeared on paper ahead of the season. And make no mistake: despite that they squared up against a Tottenham side that have been dealing with issues of their own from injuries, lack of transfers, and even the on-going saga of their new stadium, it is still a Tottenham side that is probably the best positioned, on paper, to lay claim to a Top 4 place of the second-tier of Top 6 clubs. Even factoring in a resurgent Chelsea, Tottenham should be able to finish ahead of United and Arsenal.
Liverpool have done the business and survived their first real test of the season. And despite sustaining a potential injury scare to Roberto Firmino, they’ve done it while being able remain healthy for their next biggest test to this young campaign: a Champions League tilt against Paris St. Germain. Liverpool will be going into this match with as close to a full squad as can be expected, with only Dejan Lovren and Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain out with injury at the moment. If Bobby’s eye heals in time, then Jurgen Klopp will have his full and expected complement of players to select the starting eleven from.
That full complement is going to absolutely be necessary as Liverpool will be facing an attack the likes of which they haven’t yet seen in Neymar and Kylian Mbappé. Add Thomas Tuchel at the helm and Gianluigi Buffon to anchor the back and sprinkle in the likes of Adrien Rabiot, Marco Verrati, or Edninson Cavani and it is quite clear that there is a lot of quality in this PSG side. No victory is to be assumed and it is a proper tilt between two of the brightest names in all of modern football.
And so I have to believe that on the eve of this next test, as the winds and temperatures have dipped and, maybe, a few of the leaves have already begun to turn on Merseyside, a fair share of our Reds are wired with anticipation at what is next to come. That, maybe, Jordan Henderson or James Milner or Young Joe Gomez might be looking at the hours on the clock tick by tonight and find it hard to sleep.
Because tomorrow brings a new challenge. Because tomorrow brings a new fight. Because tomorrow brings us one day closer to a summer where we may, finally, earn our way back to the title of Best Football Team in the World.